Florida Proposes End to Costly Juvenile Court Fees

The Imprint •
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Seeking to join the roster of states that have sought to ease the financial impact of juvenile court fees on families, a bipartisan group of Florida state lawmakers filed two companion measures that would prohibit such charges in the Sunshine State.

While the idea of charging youth and families court fees and fines to help defray the cost of investigation and adjudication of offenders was pitched as reasonable when they were proposed, experience has shown them to be problematic, even counterproductive in real life.

According to a nationwide study by the Juvenile Law Center from 2016, the charges tend to increase recidivism, suck kids further into the juvenile justice system, aggravate existing racial disparities and further strain families that are already struggling financially and emotionally. Given that so many juveniles and families can’t afford to pay them, they are expensive to administer and collect, and lead to longer lockups for youth — at great expense to taxpayers.

About the Expert

Jessica Feierman oversees Juvenile Law Center’s projects and programs. Feierman currently leads a national effort to end fines and fees in the juvenile justice system and is engaged in litigation aimed at eliminating solitary confinement and other abusive practices in juvenile facilities.

Nadia Mozaffar is a Senior Attorney at Juvenile Law Center. Her work focuses on advancing educational rights and opportunities for children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, economic justice issues, and protecting the rights of young people in the adult justice system.

Andrew Keats is a staff attorney at Juvenile Law Center, where his work currently focuses on addressing economic justice and equity in the juvenile justice system through litigation, amicus and policy advocacy efforts.

Lindsey E. Smith joined Juvenile Law Center in 2020 as the Debt Free Justice Staff Attorney, fighting harmful court fines and fees imposed on young people and their families. She believes fines and fees are a toxic form of revenue that incentivize policing for profit, extract resources from Black and Brown communities, and push youth and their families into a cycle of poverty. Through litigation and policy campaigns across the country, she hopes to support local advocates in abolishing fines and fees in juvenile legal systems.

Before joining Juvenile Law Center, Lindsey was a Skadden Fellow

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